Make space. Find peace. Feel joy.

Organizing coloring supplies

1 February 2016

I jumped aboard the adult coloring book craze last June. I loved coloring as a kid and I love it now. It’s so wonderful that so many interesting types of coloring books are available. And the coloring supplies! When I was a kid, I used Crayola crayons. Now, I use pencils, pens, markers…it feels like the sky’s the limit.

As with many new hobbies, part of the fun is acquiring the supplies. I now feel like a kid in a candy shop in an art store, which is a new feeling. (I’m not particularly artistic.) But with the acquisition of supplies comes organizing challenges. I worked out a great organizing system for my colored pencils that I thought I’d share here. (I also color with colored Sharpies and I’m still working on a system for storing those.)

My first purchase was a single coloring book and a tin of 36 Prismacolor Premier colored pencils. Those were great—I loved the quality of the pencils and the blending I could do with them. They were contained, so all I had was a book and a tin, which I kept on the end table by the couch, along with a clipboard used while coloring a single page. Easy peasy.

But soon 36 colors wasn’t enough. So I went to locally owned Art Mart and bought more individual Prismacolor pencils. That’s when I started having a storage challenge. Then I bought more pencils and books (I asked for Art Mart gift cards for my birthday) and I had not only a storage challenge, but an organizing one. I love this kind of challenge!

Enter these lovely acrylic pencil trays from the Container Store. They’re high quality and hold two dozen pencils. I bought three. So I have space to store 72 pencils plus the 36 in the original tin.

So here’s how I worked it out. I sorted the pens by color category that made sense to me. In the acrylic trays I have:

  • Reds
  • Blues
  • Neutrals

In my tin, I have three trays of 12. I’ve divided them into:

  • Greens
  • Purples
  • Yellows

There’s a little overlap—some oranges could go in either the red or the yellow tray and some blue-purple pencils could go either way. Pinks go with the reds, but I put some with the purples. It’s all about how I think of them.

Here are some photos.

Organizing coloring supplies

Organizing coloring supplies

I store all the pencils in a Bigso Letter Box from the Container Store, along with my pencil sharpener and a box cutter for cutting pages out of a coloring book whose pages aren’t perforated. (I prefer to color a single page on a clipboard.)

See how nicely they fit?

Organizing coloring supplies

I used to store my coloring books in a second Bigso box, but after my friend Patti gave me six books for Christmas, my books outgrew the box. So I now keep them in magazine holders on a bookshelf in an adjacent room and keep my not-yet-organized collection of Sharpies in that second box, along with the current page I’m coloring on its clipboard. (I’ll post again when I figure out my Sharpies and other markers!)

The two boxes reside stacked on the end table, because I typically color while watching TV (though sometimes I color on the dining room table nearby). If we have visitors, it’s easy for me to move them out of the way.

If you’re a colorer, how do you store your supplies?

Worth repeating: Eliminating the extraneous

29 January 2016

My desk needs some serious help at the moment, probably because I’m spending too little time in my office these days. This weekend, I plan to focus on creating more visual peace in my office. I’m taking inspiration from this blog post, which I first posted on February 18, 2013. I’m so glad I signed up for Jen’s program and I wish she were still offering it!

I recently signed up for the fabulous Workspace and Studio Redesign program offered by Jen Hofmann of Inspired Home Office.

In the eight years since I last rearranged the furniture in my home office, I’ve spruced it up a couple of times (with the help of friends), but I’ve been feeling like I’d like to change it up a bit more. When I read about this program, I hopped on board.

Jen and I had our first session last week and she helped me realize that I have a lot of extraneous stuff in my office. While I had worked on clearing out and organizing the two closets in my office, I hadn’t done a thing about my desk, which was starting to close in on me. Stuff was there by default.

(Incidentally, I think one of the reasons I’ve been having trouble keeping up my clean desk habit is that so many things actually were residing on my desk that the clear space felt like it was shrinking.)

My assignment from Jen was to touch everything on my desk, as well as the stuff I can see while I’m working, and evaluate it based on the question, Does this represent who I am and where I’m going?

On Saturday, I got to work and it was absolutely liberating! I have a teak desk organizer that we bought in the early 90s. It’s been on various desks in the house, and on this desk in particular since at least 2001. I realized in talking with Jen that there were only about four things in it that I actually used on a regular basis.

So I took it off my desk. Now my desk contains only the essentials. I did a little decorative dish that contains sea glass I picked up on my trip to Barbados in November. And I added a felted-wool bowl I knit that at the moment contains my Valentine’s candy. Those two things make me happy.

Here’s a set of before and after photos.

cluttered desk top

Desk after decluttering

Talk about more visual peace! As you can see, I also cleared off much of the stuff on the bulletin board above my desk, though I haven’t exactly artfully arranged it.

There will be more evolution (I have two more sessions with Jen), but I had just to share the progress I made in a just a couple of hours on Saturday.

It’s been amazingly easy to keep my desk clear since then. (I’m so motivated!) In the morning, my uncluttered desk greets me with open arms.

Facing down my inbox

25 January 2016


For five years, I’ve been extolling the virtues of my Inbox Zero policy. Honestly, emptying my email inbox is one of the best things I do to stay on top of all the aspects of my business.

I’m probably sounding like a broken record, but my puppy, Bix, is getting in my way. Since bringing him home on December 13, Inbox Zero nirvana has been elusive. I haven’t achieved it a single time. Not even once.

The issue is that when I’m not working with clients, I’m keeping an eye on/playing with/training the puppy and putting out figurative fires. So the urgent email is getting handled, but I’m letting emails linger in my inbox. And I’m sick of it.

This week is another busy week with clients. I hope that isn’t going to change any time soon. So I’m pledging right here and now to get my inbox down to zero at some point this week and after I’ve done that, to have zero messages in my inbox at the end of the day for the rest of the work week. (I traditionally relax the Inbox Zero policy over the weekend.)

Why is this so important to me? Email in my inbox has the same effect on me that an excessive amount of physical clutter has. It clutters my mind. I lose things in my inbox. And I know it’s not necessary because, as in my home, I have a designated place for things. I have a great system for achieving and maintaining inbox zero. I need to get rid of my backlog and put it in place.

I know the benefits to my psyche and my business. Making the time to get there this week is a priority.
I promise I’ll report back, most likely as an addendum to this post. Thank you for providing me with accountability!

Update! It’s Thursday, January 28, and I just got my inbox down to zero. Such sweet relief!

Illustration by Haberdashery Badges via Flickr. Used under Creative Commons License.

The value of joining a NAPO chapter

21 January 2016

If you’re a professional organizer, I hope you’re lucky enough to live where there’s a local chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers. And if you do live near one, I hope you’ve joined it!

When I started Peace of Mind Organizing® in 2005, the first thing I did was join NAPO. The second thing would have been to join NAPO-St. Louis, except it didn’t yet exist. Thanks to the hard work of others, the chapter was established in 2006 and I was lucky enough to be a founding board member.

Through the last ten years I’ve remained involved with the chapter, serving on the board for the first six years of its existence, then taking three years off before joining the board again for another two-year stint that ends in 2017. So clearly I’m invested in the chapter.

Here’s a photo of the NAPO-St. Louis chapter members taken by Membership Director Sheila DeHart at the January 2016 meeting.

The value of joining a NAPO chapter

Why do I devote so much time and energy to the chapter? Because it gives so much back to me. Here are a few of the benefits of chapter membership:

  1. Camaraderie. For new and veteran organizers alike, the opportunity to spend time with like-minded people sharing advice and experiences is invaluable.
  2. Leadership experience. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be as good at leading my organizing teams if I hadn’t had the experience of being president of the chapter from 2008-2010. It helped form the kind of leader I’ve become.
  3. Education. NAPO-St. Louis meets in person nine times a year and the chapter’s programs are really valuable We uses both outside speakers and have programs presented by chapter members—there’s an amazing wealth of knowledge among our membership! The chapter also makes conference recordings available to its members as a membership benefit. (I’m certain this is a common chapter benefit.)
  4. Visibility. All chapter members are listed on the NAPO-St. Louis website, giving them another exposure to prospective clients.
  5. Referrals. When chapter members receive inquiries from clients they might not be right for, they’ll sometimes send them to me. And vice versa.
  6. Client resources. We have 13 Corporate Associate Members of NAPO-St. Louis and I refer clients to them all the time. I can also look for resource recommendations from fellow members of the chapter on our online forum. The chapter makes me a better resource for my clients.
  7. Business development. These days I focus my business on leading organizing teams. All my team members are NAPO-St. Louis members. I’ve made it a requirement, because I want to use independent contractors who have shown a dedication to their businesses by joining NAPO national and NAPO-St. Louis. I can assure my clients that all my team members abide by NAPO’s Code of Ethics.

I honestly don’t know where my business would be without NAPO-St. Louis, but I’m pretty sure it would not have grown like it has. If you’re a PO or an aspiring PO I urge you to get involved with your chapter. It will reap huge dividends!

If you’re a member of a NAPO chapter, please feel free to comment on what you get out of your chapter!

The curse of the large house

19 January 2016

The curse of the large house

My husband and I own a house that’s larger than we need. It was built in 1908 as a two-family house and when we bought it, we lived in the upstairs apartment and rented out the downstairs apartment. The upstairs apartment, which has two bedrooms and is 1600 square feet, was plenty big for the two of us. But we rather hated being landlords, despite the fact we had good renters. (Truth be told, we’re born renters.)

We moved to Brooklyn, New York, for four years and in that time rented out both units of the house, with the help of a property manager. Our rent in Brooklyn was twice the mortgage payment of our St. Louis house. So when we moved back to St. Louis, we decided to live in the whole house and avoid the stress of being a landlord.

So we literally have twice as much space as we need. (More than twice a much, actually.) Plus we have a full basement.

Recently I’ve been decluttering some deep storage in our home because we’ve waterproofed our basement and now have the ability to store stuff down there. I came across items that we put away in 2001 when we moved back to St. Louis. This is stuff we haven’t used in 15 years. Stuff we didn’t even miss. Or remember owning. (I’m talking about items like tablecloths, games, and a bag marked, in my handwriting, “Barry’s shirts.” What was I thinking?) Most of it has been donated.

The longer I’m a professional organizer the more fervently I believe that life is better when we have less stuff. I believe that owning fewer belongings leads to more freedom. And I see it in my clients as well.

I have two clients looking to put their houses on the market on February 15. Both clients own spacious homes. Consequently, both clients have lots of stuff. I am encouraging them to let go of as much as possible as we pack up items for storing for staging purposes. As my team members and I are handling these items, I just keep thinking about how much better off we all would be dragging around less stuff.

If you live in a small home that is bursting at the seams, you may think the answer to your clutter problem would be moving to a larger home. I’m here to tell you that it isn’t true. When we have large homes, we tend to acquire more. (Just like when we have higher incomes we tend to spend more.)

At some point before long, I suspect Barry and I will sell our house and move. Believe me, I will be advocating for a much smaller space! As challenging as the downsizing might be, I’m confident having fewer belongings will lead to happiness and peace of mind.

Your moment of cuteness

15 January 2016

I’ve had difficulty finding time to blog, between the busy beginning-of-the-year client load and sharing puppy-raising duties with my husband.

But, of course, little Bix, our standard poodle puppy born on October 16, is worth all the time and attention we give him. He’s growing like a weed and makes us laugh every day.

In an effort to post something new here, I give you this photo of the sweet boy. I think it can’t help but put a smile on your face.

I took the two photos with my phone and used the app Pic Stitch to put them together. The photo was taken almost two weeks ago, so he’s probably half again as big now, but I love it so much I had to share.

Worth repeating: An empty drawer is a beautiful thing

11 January 2016

I wrote this post a year ago and I still fervently believe its message. Less stuff = more freedom, in my opinion. It’s that simple.

An empty drawer is a thing of beauty

My team and I helped a client declutter and organize her entire home last week and we were able to make a huge impact—because the client parted with so much. She was so ready to let go of the excess that was weighing her down and she made amazing decisions. As we took out bag after bag of denotable items, the rooms seemed to get lighter.

All the team members—and the client—were practically giddy over it.

When it came time to organize the items that were kept, it was a breeze. We found ourselves with empty drawers and even an empty cabinet when we were finished. Folks, that’s a rarity. And it’s a great thing.

To me, an empty drawer represents abundance (though it may appear the opposite). It represents the ability to bring in new items, new ideas, new opportunities. By letting go of so much, this client has opened herself up to a whole new way of life. She’ll no longer have to struggle to find what she needs. Everything in her home has a place (another rarity). Possibilities have opened up.

I have every confidence that she’ll be able to maintain the order. If she has difficulty, she now has a resource (me) to get her right back on track.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the less stuff you own, the easier life is.

If you have more items than you can store comfortably and the excess is getting in your way, consider letting stuff go. I promise that living in your home will become less of a struggle. And who doesn’t want that?

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